PART ONE

The trip couldnt have been more well timed. I had gone with a personal agenda. Some kind of ‘spring cleaning and soul searching’. You know what I mean… Even though the trip wasnt really fitting the bill of a vacation for me, it turned out to be the prefect getaway – just the kinds I was looking for.

The trip to Rishikesh was more of some adventurous venturing rather than sitting back, relaxing and enjoying the scenic beauty around you. The whole thing happened in a couple of hours – a quick decision, some packing, and off I went! A college pal – who always steps into the scene at the right moment – offered this trip.

And I still cant thank her enough. A team from her office planned out this trip during the extended weekend we had for Easter. You could bring along a friend too. Shivranjini (Shiv) ‘carried’ me along. On Maundy Thursday, I packed my bags and went off to her place after work.

While playing with her dog, she detailed me on where exactly we were going and why. She showed me a list of names – the people with whom I would be rafting across the Ganga. Interesting… for the next three days, these ‘strangers’ became my only source of human contact in the wilderness. And I have no complaints. A decent bunch of young people who became an excellent example of team spirit.

The account over here is not complete in any sense. There will be a whole lot of details missing. In fact they are just some unrelated sentences strung together. Coherence isnt something I have been adhering to, these days! But I only want to record a few moments from the three-day trip, out here. This account is only from Day One. The others will follow soon.

: : : :

9th April 2004

: : : :

While sitting in the Qualis and listening to some unbearable songs, we took our time to break the ice and get to know each other. Together, we translated some of the songs being played and discovered what pathetic lyricists we all would make. We saw the sunrise together. A sight that can never tire your eyes. The sky is gradually washed over by a splash of oranges and reds and yellows…

***

A long long drive later, we reached Kaudiyala – it’s a place 32 Kms away from Rishikesh. This was where our base camp was supposed to be. We met up with our

river guide and boss of Adveture Trails India, Mr. Anil Bisht. Tall, honey brown skin and well built. It was pretty evident that this chap has been spending a considerable time climbing and rafting. Easy demeanour, yet alert senses. Comfortably dressed in floaters and shorts. Make him hold an oar, and it would be perfect!

***

The river beaches are very very different from those of the sea. The sand is silver-grey in colour… as though someone has powdered those boulders nearby and sprinkled it on the beach! Sometimes, I feel they look a little outlandish – as though we are walking on the surface of another planet or moon or something. Wildlife is more tamer than the humans who come to camp out there – barking deer and langurs. A variety of birds including kingfishers and peacocks also make their appearances.

***

When we were in calmer waters, Anil ‘pushed’ us into the cold cold waters! What a feeling! Thrill mixed with fear. The life jacket suddenly becomes very dear to you and you simply wouldnt let go of the lifeline of the raft. You bob up and down in the water…”LEAVE the ROPE! LEAVE IT!” Now, you cant easily get yourself to begin believing a total stranger let yourself flow into the deep currents. But something within you tells you to do so – in a moments time you let off the rope and drift away…

***

The river teaches you a lot of things. Lessons that would help you solve your problems – if only you would have the time to listen. Let go. Travel light. Take things as they come. Dont try to fight the current because it would be a sheer waste of energy. Do not challenge the forces of nature – play with them, but never fight them. We dont listen to all these beautiful things Nature tries to teach us. But when we take off for the mountains, and when we are cut off from the rest of our kind, we are forced to sit down and listen, like an obedient child.

***

Way past twilight, we reached our camp.

Exhausted from the road travelling and the paddling, we collapsed onto bamboo chairs and sipped coffee. Had an early dinner and sat around for a while. Not many of us could keep our eyes open for long – most of them went off to their tents to unwind. I was about to hit the sack as well. While gulping down a glass of water, I happened to look skywards. And what caught my eyes almost took my breath away!

Stars! So many of them! The whole sky seemed packed with them. It was as though

tonight was an overdoze for a star-gazer… I spotted those regular constellations and the bright ones. I spotted a falling star as well. I did not wish for anything – For that night, I was completely happy with myself…

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